Tag Archives: generation two

Azurill – The Hermaphrodite Pokémon

At first glance, Azurill may seem like another forgettable baby Pokémon. This poor water mouse is easily overshadowed by its evolved forms – Marill for igniting the myth that became Pikablu, and Azumarill for its use in competitive play. Indeed, the only memorable characteristic about this Pokémon is its frowning sprite, probably begging to be put out of its misery for being relegated to Gen II dex filler. However, do not let that incredibly heart-wrenching face fool you, because Azuril does have one thing that sets it apart from the other 721 Pokémon currently in existence. Azurill, upon evolution, can change its gender. Azurill is a hermaphrodite.

Until Generation VI when this was fixed, Azurill had a gender ratio of 75% female and 25% male, while both Marill and Azumarill had an even 50:50 split between male and male. Thus, upon evolution into Marill, female Azurills actually had a one in three chance of swapping gender and evolving into a male Marill. Imagine the surprise of the unsuspecting player to find out the female Azurill they had raised and probably given a gender-appropriate name was now a male.

In biology, this phenomenon is referred to as hermaphroditism, and an organism that has both the reproductive organs of both the male and female sexes is a hermaphrodite. This trait is most common in invertebrates such as gastropods, earthworms, and jellyfish, as well as flowering plants.

Hermaphrodites fall into two categories – simultaneous and sequential. Simultaneous hermaphrodites continuously bear male and female reproductive organs throughout their lives. Garden snails are a well-known example of simultaneous hermaphroditism. The snails still mate and produce offspring that are genetically unique, however self-fertilization is not uncommon for simultaneous hermaphrodites, as plants often self-fertilize in the absence of pollinators. Some organisms such as earthworms have defenses in place to prevent self-pollination.

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Snails exchanging sexual material. The longer you stare at it the less disturbing it becomes.

 

The world of simultaneous hermaphroditism is a fascinating if not strange place, as evident by the unsettling number of photos of invertebrates in various stages of copulation I’ve been forced to shuffle through in order to write this blog post. But personally, I find the sequential hermaphrodites more interesting, in that they are born as one sex but later switch later in life.

A creature such as Azurill, would be classified as a protogynous hermaphrodite, an organism that was born female but changes to a male. Protogyny is common among fish, some of the few vertebrates that exhibit hermaphroditism. Female wrasses, for example, may change into males upon a shortage of the opposite sex, developing testes in place of ovaries. However, this change is irreversible, and only females can make the change, although, under laboratory conditions, males have been known to also swap genders.

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Wrasses often organize into “harems” in which mating typically takes place.

 

Azuril appears to fall into the same boat of the wrasse, with females being the only ones able to change gender, as well as it being an irreversible process. While the in-game cause of this phenomenon may lie in perhaps an oversight on the game designer’s part, from a pure evolutionary viewpoint, Azuril’s hermaphroditism could provide a similar benefit as the wrasse, balancing out the gender ratios when they fall out of whack. But that’s just me applying real world logic to a videogame, again.

Cinnabar Island: Rebuilding the Ruins – Ecological Succession

Two years after the events of Generation I, our young protagonist returns to the esteemed island of Cinnabar only to find the place in ruins. A volcanic eruption has all but destroyed any sign of life or civilization on the island. People and Pokémon have fled for the Seafoam Islands, and the only sign of mankind’s reconstruction is a lone Pokémon Center. But when will Nature reclaim her territory and begins its own reconstruction. Chances are that she already has, the very literal seeds of her conquest were sown long before any human broke ground on the Pokémon Center. Although we may not witness it in the games, rest assured that the powers of ecological succession will restore Cinnabar to a flourishing paradise. Give or take a few decades.

At the risk of personifying Nature, ecological succession the process through which she reclaims lost territory or settles on new. There are two types succession, primary and secondary. In primary succession, Mother Nature is on the offensive, colonizing new territories that often devoid of vegetation and soil, just bare rocks and maybe cooled lava flows. Primary succession commonly occurs after a volcanic eruption, such as the one that took place on Cinnabar Island, as well as in areas where a glacier has just retreated, revealing what is often a bare lifeless layer of rock and stone.

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To carry a weary metaphor, the first wave involves a hardy group of organisms called pioneer species which pave (or rather, un-pave) the way for later organisms by breaking down the rocky layer and establishing a thin layer of soil for which other more needy plants can use to dig their roots in and further the process. Abiotic factors (non-living components of an ecosystem) also play a part in eroding the solid exterior. Most pioneer species are organisms that require little or no soil to grow and are usually extremely resilient and adaptive, organisms such as lichens, fungi, algae, whose seeds can be carried by the wind easily and land in these decimated areas moments after the surface is exposed. Microorganisms begin cycling nutrients in the ecosystem to provide a basis for important biogeochemical processes, such as nitrogen-fixing bacteria which kick start the nitrogen cycle.

Over time, an ecosystem will form with increasing complexity. Larger organisms will move in and fill empty niches. Trees will take to the skies with a thick layer of soil to support them. This process can take as little as a few decades to up to millions of years depending of the severity of the disaster.

Secondary succession is often the quicker process, taking place in an area that has suffered a less catastrophic disaster in which substrate is left intact, such as a forest fire or human activity like deforestation. In these scenarios, soil and most of the other necessary components are still in place and thus the ecosystem can more easily recover.

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Whether primary or secondary, ecological succession showcases the resiliency of life. Plethora of natural disasters and mass extinction events have tried to extinguish Earth of this unique phenomenon we call life, and yet every time Nature rebuilds itself and flourishes. Even if we are a blink in the evolutionary annals, there is something comforting in knowing that life itself will continue long after humanity has moved on, perhaps until the Earth itself is consumed by the Sun. In the end, life always finds a way.